Florida Greyhound Racing Reform

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Greyhound racing.
It's been part of Florida's culture for more than 80 years.
And to this day, no other state is home to more dog tracks.
But now, some lawmakers say the sport's heyday has come and gone.

Legislation's been filed to do away with a requirement that card rooms have to offer live greyhound races.

If you're off to the races, chances are you won't have to worry about finding a seat.
The stands are far from full.
Under state law, the dogs have to run for the gambling to run.
Even at Pinellas County's Derby Lane, where people do turn out for the greyhounds, Vera Rasnake says some days are better than others.

"It could be storming outside, it could be really, really something out of the ordinary, we'd still be forced to run the dogs in order to open the poker room," she says.

There's no question most of Florida's dog tracks are losing money on their greyhound races.
It could be a lot worse for the tracks if not for the 4.7 million dollars in subsidies they get every year from Tallahassee.
Tampa State Representative Dana Young is pushing to bring all of it to an end.
Young wants to eliminate the greyhound racing mandate.

"We need to remove these mandates, we need to stop propping up the greyhound racing industry, and we need to let that industry stand or fall on its own," she says.

The bill's critics complain it could cost hundreds of jobs in Florida's greyhound racing industry.

But the legislation's sponsor in the senate, democrat Maria Sachs, isn't so much focused on jobs and money...she cares most about the dogs at the heart of the issue.

"We are a humane people, and the idea of racing live dogs is just not what we should be noted for," she says.

The greyhound industry has put together a powerful lobbying effort here, using the same people who helped defeat the bill last year.
And now, they may have the added benefit of an election year, when lawmakers tend to be careful to steer clear of controversy.

The bill's supporters say the taxpayer money being used to subsidize greyhound racing in Florida could be better spent on more pressing needs.
They say it could be used to hire 130 teachers or provide college tuition for more than 800 students.

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